South Africa’s President Speaks at Funeral of 21 Teens

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered the eulogy Wednesday at a funeral for 21 teenagers who died at a bar last month under mysterious circumstances.Investigators said the teenagers likely were poisoned by something they ingested, while som…

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered the eulogy Wednesday at a funeral for 21 teenagers who died at a bar last month under mysterious circumstances.

Investigators said the teenagers likely were poisoned by something they ingested, while some reports indicated a gas leak might have been responsible.

Colorful bouquets adorned coffins for 19 of the victims. All were empty, according to the Reuters news agency, because police were still investigating what caused the deaths.

Reuters reported the other two victims had already been buried by their families.

More than a week ago, the lifeless bodies of the 21 youths, the youngest of whom was just 13, were found slumped over chairs and tables at an East London bar, while others died on the dance floor.

For the funeral Wednesday, a massive tent was erected on the Scenery Park Sports Field. Relatives and friends paid tribute.

“He loved sport. He played soccer at school,” a person said of one victim.”He suddenly passed away on the 26th of June, 2022. He will be deeply missed by his family, friends and all those who knew him.”

In his eulogy, Ramaphosa said that while the cause of death was still unknown, the tragedy put a spotlight on underage drinking and alcohol abuse.

“Today we shed bitter tears for the 21 young lives we have lost,” he said. “We must ensure that there is justice for them. We do not want more parents to get a call in the middle of the night about the death of their child. Or being asked to come and identify their child who has passed away due to alcohol abuse. We do not want any parent to experience this type of pain anymore.”

He said since the tragedy there had been calls for the legal drinking age to be increased from 18 to 21. And he said he thought there should be a national debate on it.

He also called on marketers of alcohol not to target young people.

“Many years ago, when government embarked upon a program to reduce the harm caused by tobacco cigarettes, government was heavily criticized and met with enormous resistance,” Ramaphosa said. “Today we take it for granted that the anti-smoking laws exist and they are being complied with by the majority of our people. A similar approach matched by the necessary interventions is needed to reduce the harm of alcohol abuse amongst our young people.”

The president also appealed to mayors to set up committees to look at substance abuse in all municipalities of the country.

He also called for better implementation of the country’s laws.

“We mourn with you and we will walk this road with you,” Ramaphosa said. “What you can be sure of is that following this tragedy we are going to act as a government.”

A stampede has been ruled out as a cause of death, but there was no word on how much longer the investigation into the cause of death would take.

Source: Voice of America

UN: 828 Million More People Faced Hunger in 2021

The United Nations warned Wednesday that the world is failing in its efforts to eradicate hunger, as 828 million more people had too little to eat in 2021 — 150 million more than before the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2019.The State of Food Security an…

The United Nations warned Wednesday that the world is failing in its efforts to eradicate hunger, as 828 million more people had too little to eat in 2021 — 150 million more than before the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2019.

The State of Food Security and Nutrition report, released Wednesday, is the collaborative effort of five U.N. agencies, including the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Program. Their data show that the major drivers of food insecurity and malnutrition are conflict, climate change and economic shocks, combined with growing inequalities.

“The ongoing war in Ukraine, together with other extended conflicts around the world, is further disrupting supply chains and pushing up the price of food, grain, fertilizer and energy, leading to shortages and high food price inflation,” FAO Director General Qu Dongyu told a briefing of U.N. member states.

Around 2.3 billion people lacked access to adequate food in 2021. Regionally, hunger continued to rise in Africa where 278 million people were affected, in Asia where 425 million experienced it, and in Latin America and the Caribbean where 56.5 million people were affected.

Nearly 3.1 billion people could not afford to eat healthy foods in 2020 — an increase of 112 million people over 2019. The U.N. agencies say that number reflects the rise in food prices due to the economic impact of the pandemic and measures put in place to contain it.

The report urges governments to reallocate their existing resources to the agriculture sector more efficiently, arguing that better results, like more abundant healthy foods, do not necessarily need more investment. Attention must also be paid to policies, including trade and market restrictions, which can inhibit access to quality foods at affordable prices.

“Governments must review their current support to food and agriculture to reduce hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in all its forms,” U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed told the meeting.

She said transformative change would be the only way to get back on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goal of eradicating global hunger by 2030 — a target that now appears far out of reach.

“Our updated projections indicate that more than 670 million people may still be hungry in 2030, far from the zero hunger target and the level that was in 2015 — the year when the SDGs were agreed,” FAO chief economist Maximo Torero said.

Ukraine impact

Ukraine is one of the top five global grain exporters. The FAO says it supplies more than 45 million tons annually to the global market. Russia is blockading several million tons of Ukrainian grain in the Black Sea port of Odesa, while FAO estimates that 18 million tons of cereals and oilseeds are in storage awaiting export.

The organization says Ukraine is expected to harvest 60 million tons of grain this year, but since there is a backlog, there is a lack of storage in the country.

Torero said FAO simulations show the impact of the war could increase the world’s chronically hungry by 13 million people this year and 17 million next year, in part due to the rise in fertilizer prices and an expected global slowdown in wheat yields.

World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley warns that chronic and growing food insecurity is threatening to push 50 million people in 45 countries closer to famine.

“The global price spikes in food, fuel and fertilizers that we are seeing as a result of the crisis in Ukraine threaten to push countries around the world into famine,” he said. “The result will be global destabilization, starvation and mass migration on an unprecedented scale. We have to act today to avert this looming catastrophe.”

Source: Voice of America

Africa Democracy Summit Calls On Leaders to Respect Term Limits

Botswana is hosting an international meeting aimed at strengthening democracy and adherence to constitutions in Africa. Participants are calling on African militaries and leaders to respect term limits after several recent coups and efforts to extend t…

Botswana is hosting an international meeting aimed at strengthening democracy and adherence to constitutions in Africa. Participants are calling on African militaries and leaders to respect term limits after several recent coups and efforts to extend time in power.

The three-day summit, organized by Botswana and the U.S.-based National Democratic Institute (NDI), has attracted former heads of state and civil society activists from across Africa.

Niger’s former president, Mahamadou Issoufou, speaking via videolink, said there is concern over the state of democracy in Africa.

“We have some … results from certain countries, but democracy is regressing in certain countries, and especially through military coups,” he said. “I am happy Botswana and Niger are speaking with one voice.” Countries have to respect the two-term limit, he added.

Issoufou left office after two terms in 2021 and was awarded the five-million dollar Ibrahim prize for good governance.

Botswana’s president, Mokgweetsi Masisi, said his country, Africa’s longest-running democracy, was the ideal location for the meeting.

He said Africa requires strong institutions to promote constitutionalism and to ensure democracy flourishes.

“We remain resolute in the belief that we are better served by strong institutions rather than strongmen or women or anything in between,” he said. “My firm belief is that this summit represents our strong partnerships to renew and strengthen efforts to respect constitutional term limits as a pillar of democratic governance and peaceful political transitions across our continent.”

Peaceful political transitions remain elusive in some African countries. In the last 16 months alone, leaders have been ousted by coups in Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso and Sudan.

U.S. Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights Uzra Zeya, in a recorded statement, said her country will continue to support Africa’s efforts to uphold democratic principles.

“The United States is proud to support today’s convening and we will continue to back our partner’s efforts to bring attention to the efforts of constitutional term limits as they are key to democratic governance,” she said. “We all know from public opinion research that constitutional term limits have widespread popular support across Africa.”

National Democratic Institute President Derek Mitchell said the Gaborone summit comes at an opportune time.

“There is no more important moment to reaffirm and embrace the eternal truth than today when democracy is under attack in so many corners of the world,” he said. Democracy must be protected, defended, cultivated through regular civic practice and education. Respect for constitutionalism promotes rule of law and political accountability.”

The Gaborone meeting is a follow-up to a 2019 summit held in Niger to promote the respect of constitutional limits.

Source: Voice of America